Student Nomination Story

Throughout my time in Merton Middle School I have never really liked science. It’s always been the class that least interests me until seventh and eighth grade. I had a new science teacher, Mr. Wagner. At first it wasn't all exciting. I thought it’s just going to be another day of boring science, but I walked in, sat down and waited for the bell to ring. Once the bell rang, Mr. Wagner started off the class with talking about how he would like to play music/vinyl and make it a tradition. Everyday in the morning he would play a song on vinyl and he would sometimes start singing and making beats with his pens during it. I learned a lot about atoms and elements and how they combine or not combine. It was a great way to start off the year and the first of me enjoying science in a fun way. Everyday was something new and exciting. Sometimes when putting in a new piece of music he would tell us a story behind it which was to me and to many others inspiring. Some of the stories that he tells behind the music whether it would be rock or hip hop ends up being something that he has experienced. For example, he was playing a song from Guns ‘n’ Roses and he was telling us about how him and his friends made a band sort of like them called Knives ‘n’ Roses, which connects to what we were going to do in class. It really got me thinking throughout the whole day and during the lab because he doesn't even have to tell us how it is a life lesson, just the story is the life lesson. Mr. Wagner loves to learn more and doesn't stop until he has the answer. Once he has the complete answer he would spend almost a day of telling us what he has found. It was inspirational and funny because he gets really jumpy or excited talking about space or gravity, but also really cool on what he has found. It also shows that he cares and he makes sure that before we leave his classroom that we learn something new that messes with our heads throughout the day, in a good way. Since I had Mr. Wagner in the morning we all just woke up. To energize us, one time he threw a chair in a safe manner on the other side of the room where there was plenty of space. He was demonstrating something that students shouldn’t do in his class even though they may want to. We were then all up and understood what not to do in his class. Throughout my time with Mr. Wagner he has changed completely what my perspective on science is you can always make something better that you don't like and enjoyable for yourself. Mr. Wagner taught me how to be confident in my work and many things that I love including elements, atoms, animals, and coding. Without him, I would've never learned those things in a fun and interactive way.

Devin Becker

“Day one.” A phrase I repeated on loop for hours before deciding to get out of a bed and get ready. It was a new school with new people and a bunch of classes with rooms I didn’t recognize. Easy. First hour was science, how boring. I walked in, took a seat with a group of people I didn’t recognize and waited for class to start. I found out the teacher was new as well. He walked in and gave the dull safety science talk they all give, except his was different. In addition to the poor, innocent chair, he whipped across the room to demonstrate inappropriate behavior, something was different. He showed a passion for the world of science and cared for the people around him. Over the course of the year, throughout tests, presentations, and lectures, he related to children and made science interesting. His energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging style of teaching was off the charts; it changed the way I look at the world of science. During the early years of middle school, whether it was Merton or Richmond, I couldn’t have cared if I turned out to be a doctor or a burger-flipper at McDonald’s, but all of that changed. I enjoyed learning the atomic number for Rubidium is 37 or how potential energy converts to kinetic and thermal energy. Most importantly, I learned how to fit into the new school. It’s the little things I remember. From the daily music to the simple questions I asked, Mr. Wagner answered each and every time with the same smile. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mr. Wagner. You helped me get used to the new school and the new life path that I would embark on. You are one of the greatest, if not the greatest teacher I’ve ever had the pleasure of having. I love your friendly, devoted, and knowledgeable energy. I only hope the best for you and hope that you can continue to inspire the incredibly lucky children that come through your classroom. It’s too bad I can’t take day one over again.

Colin Seefeldt

Science class was not necessarily where my leading grades came from. And don’t get me wrong; I absolutely loved the subject, but I was not skilled in it. If only I knew that help was on the way for my middle school science grade. I was inching towards graduation from Merton Intermediate School and was nervous for what was to come. My grade was going to have a new science teacher that year and still had no idea who it was. As soon as I walked into the science room is when I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Wagner. He was previously a teacher at Silver Lake Middle School and our last year at Merton was his first year. He made each day brighter with his kind blue eyes and a warm smile that would light up a room. Music is where we first connected. One of my favorite things he did was begin each class with a new song for us on his record player. This was something I’ve never seen any other teacher do and it became extremely special to me. He’d elaborate about the song, artist or band and afterwards, our class would discuss our thoughts about it. He showed us pictures of where he kept his records; music from decades ago or just a few years back. Mr. Wagner trusted me enough to use the record player by myself and play whatever music I felt like. He showed each and every student their importance in life by showing their importance to him. He listened and cared. I recall becoming frustrated with the light unit in his class second semester. But he never gave up on me and made time to help me through all of it during either my lunch or study hall. Later, this became a consistent thing and I would stay for lunch a couple times a week and just talk about life with him. Some days I’d come in during study hall to get help or if I had nothing to work on, I would re-organize all of the vex parts for his next class. He influenced such a humble, caring and happy character he had in himself. Mr. Wagner helped me through so much in middle school; my problems with friends, family, self-esteem or anything that’s on my mind. He was there whole-heartedly through my good and bad days. When graduation came around, I was sad to leave but Mr. Wagner reminded me of just how proud he was and that he’ll always be around. Before I walked out the doors, I hugged him goodbye and told him how grateful I was for everything he’d done for me. So thank you again Mr. Wagner, for helping make my last year, the best year.

Grace Scharpf

I began to worry, it was my seventh grade year at Merton and our class moved to the top of the building with new classrooms and new teachers. For me, it felt like I was on a new planet that nobody had ever seen. My first hour class was with Mr. Wagner, the new Science teacher. I was nervous, because Science was a hard subject for me to follow and understand. My first impression of Mr. Wagner was a good one; the first day I asked him what we were going to be learning, and he was an unbelievably patient and understanding. I could tell he was a teacher who cared and wanted me to learn. He made me feel comfortable asking questions. He helped me become a better student and person by being a hands on teacher and bringing his inspiring, supportive, and helpful personality to class everyday. Coming into Mr.Wagner's class I wasn't confident—Mr. Wagner helped me build confidence through the units we learned about, including Bohr models and learning about the elements. What we learned went far behind just Science; he taught me and many others how to be kind to each other and to have a good mindset. I loved how Mr. Wagner opened his classes by playing a record. I remember the first song he played was Rusty Hammer by Xiavver Rudd. The music he played had a purpose and meant something more than just a song. But what I liked the most about him was his down to earth personality; he was supportive and thoughtful. My favorite lab that we did in class was the egg dropping lab, where we had a fixed amount of material to use and we had to spend a certain amount of “money” to make the holder of the egg. This taught me how to solve and work as a team to overcome obstacles are group faced. I feel as if the labs we did were more than just an experiment, and more of him teaching us life skills and life lessons. I don’t think I ever told him, but I appreciated him so much in seventh grade, and still do today. He taught me things I use outside of school. He taught me how to work-hard and be confident in myself at school, and made me a better person. Mr. Wagner is the most kind, inspiring, caring teacher I have ever met. He made me feel like I was a genius when I felt like I was unintelligent. Thank you Mr. Wagner, for helping me become a better person and making an impact on my life.

Ayden Adams

Seventh grade was the light at the end of the tunnel. I was finally emerging from the normal middle school sadness episode. My grades were starting to rise from that C average and I worked on accepting myself at the time. Science was hard for me to understand and I was nervous for the second semester because the school had just gotten a new teacher. I will never forget the first day I walked into that room at the end of the hall. Eggshell white walls were covered with the periodic table, scientists, and one distinct John Lennon picture. I found my seat and he began the usual first day speech. Or so I thought… He began with what is acceptable behavior, but when he covered the unacceptable behavior I could hear his voice getting more and more irritated. He then proceeded to grab the stool near him and throw it at the cabinets. The class was in shock and stared at the new teacher wondering who the heck the school hired. Mr. Wagner then looked at the class with a smile emerging, “Bet that got your attention.” That moment stuck with me from that day and I knew it was going to be a good class…and it was. He would play us a record everyday to widen our concept of music. Allowing us to take a break from the block class. He kept the class engaged and took the time to compare what we were learning to stuff in the real world and how we would use the material in everyday life. Every week he would have us do CRP or “circle of power and respect” where we would sit in a circle and play a game. Before every game he would pick pairs of people to go in the center, shake hands, and give each other a compliment. Doing something as simple as this taught us the valuable life lesson of greeting others and having genuine conversations. When the class would get off topic he would redirect us. Unless of course it was about things like taxes and adult life in which he would take time to teach us because “It's more important to have you learn about things you will undoubtedly use everyday.” I appreciate that he got to learn about every single student in the class and check up on them. He is the most engaged teacher I’ve ever had. The middle of the semester was a great turning point for me. Being one of the average kids, I was shocked to be called to the back of the class with a small group who got high scores on the pretest. For the first time in a long time, I was proud of myself. I kept this up and worked hard for the rest of that year and into my eighth grade year where my grades soared. It felt good to be getting A’s and B’s and gave myself something to look forward to at school. I know it might have seemed small but what Mr. Wagner did for me and the rest of his students changed us and gave us precious skills to help us in life.

Rachel Tucker

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.